In Kansas City, riding a motorcycle is a very popular hobby and mode of transportation. For most of the year, the weather is crisp and fresh. It’s no wonder we see so many motorcyclists out and about – they want to enjoy as much of the awesome temperatures as possible before they’re obligated to leave their motorcycles in the garage for several months ahead. But we are officially in those “less-than-awesome” temperatures now, and that means you have an additional risk to face: hypothermia.
Hypothermia is considered a medical emergency that requires treatment right away. It takes place when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Hypothermia can begin when the body reaches an unusually low temperature of 95°F (35°C). When this happens, organs and body systems start to lose function. Eventually, the heart begins to fail, and death can occur rapidly from here on out.
A major misconception about hypothermia is that it can only be developed when temperatures are freezing. This is dangerous misinformation as hypothermia can occur at 40°F (4.5°C), 50°F (10°C), and even warmer temperatures. It’s important to keep in mind that the main factor necessary for hypothermia to take place is exposure to cold, wet conditions. Although it may not seem likely that one can develop this dangerous condition in warmer temperatures, it is important to always take caution – especially when riding a motorcycle.
What are the symptoms of hypothermia?
There are three stages of hypothermia: mild, moderate, and severe. In each stage, there can be different symptoms, which can become worse as it progresses if no treatment is received.
With mild hypothermia, the first symptom the individual starts to notice is shivering. It feels normal; it’s the body’s automatic response to cold temperatures. When the body shivers, it is trying to warm itself back up. But even though we see this as completely typical, we should never assume that there is no risk of further complications. In this stage, we also see memory loss, pale skin, loss of body movement, increased muscle tone, unclear speech, faster heart rate, and rapid breathing rate.
With moderate hypothermia, the individual will experience slow reflexes, abnormal heart rhythms, enlarged pupils, lethargy, and lower blood pressure. During severe hypothermia, the pupils no longer react, and fluid begins to build up in the lungs. Breathing is labored and the body temperature has decreased to 82.4°F (28°C). Soon, heart failure and cardiac arrest take place. Keep in mind that many victims of hypothermia do not realize they are even going through it because these symptoms come up gradually over time. The hypothermia may have already led to the individual becoming confused, which decreases their self-awareness. Once this happens, risky behavior (like taking off their clothes in cold temperatures) can occur because the victim may not fully realize what they are doing.
How is hypothermia treated?
Medical attention is urgent when hypothermia is involved; however, vital first-aid care is needed before medical professionals arrive at the scene or can even be reached. The person needs to be removed from the cold temperatures immediately and they must be handled gently. Any wet clothing needs to be removed as quickly as possible, and that person’s breathing should be monitored. Passive rewarming, or covering up the individual in warm blankets and offering them warm fluids to ingest, may be helpful in mild cases.
A process known as blood rewarming may be necessary in more extreme cases. This is where blood is drawn, warmed, and then recirculated into that person’s body. Humidified oxygen can be used to help warm up the airways, improve breathing, and raise the body temperature. A warmed solution of salt water can be introduced intravenously or through catheters.
Why is it dangerous to ride a motorcycle in cold temperatures?
Motorcyclists run a much higher risk of hypothermia than those operating cars. It may sound dramatic to say that even starting to feel a little cold on the seat can become life-threatening, but it’s important to consider the speed at which you’re riding. It’s one thing to be walking in a wind chill, but when you’re riding at high speeds in the open air, that 50°F (10°C) can quickly reduce to 40°F (4.5°C) or colder. You may deem it to be enjoyable to feel this cold air on your face, but it may not be long before hypothermia symptoms creep in without you noticing or giving it much thought.
How can a motorcyclist avoid hypothermia on the road?
A motorcyclist that dresses appropriately for colder temperatures while riding has the highest chance of preventing hypothermia. This will also help them avoid getting into an accident with other vehicles, since hypothermia leads to a reduction in reaction times. The rider will need an insulated jacket that is designed to be in cold temperatures. Ensure that there are no cracks or small, open spaces in the clothing where the harsh air can seep through.
Heated gloves are another excellent idea, as they will always guard your hands against the cold. It’s important that all fingers can freely move while riding a motorcycle; if your fingers start to get too cold and immobile from the low temperatures, it can lead to an accident as you will not have sufficient control of the handlebars and brake levers.
Make pit stops regularly to ingest warm foods and drinks. It is recommended to stop every hour if going on a long trip. Be sure to always keep your body warm – both inside and out!
Hypothermia can be terrifying and leave you wondering if you’ll be able to keep certain parts of your body. If you’ve suffered a serious injury and are having trouble securing compensation from your insurance company, let our experienced lawyers help. Contact our Kansas City, MO, office today by calling our offices or filling out our contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
Our other Missouri locations are Lee’s Summit, Parkville, and St. Joseph. We have offices located in Kansas: Olathe, Kansas City, and Overland Park. These locations are by appointment only.
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Kansas City personal injury attorney James Roswold of Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys handles cases dealing with victims of personal injury, medical negligence, wrongful death, workers compensation, nursing home negligence, premises liability, product liability, car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases.